Last week on PBS NewsHour, I watched a panel that included millennials and author Bruce Gibney as they engaged in a spirited Zoom conversation about that infamous generation of sociopaths, the Baby Boomers. (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/ok-boomer-whats-behind-millennials-growing-resentment-for-their-predecessors) At least, I thought that was what I heard and, to my dismay, I wasn’t mistaken. In Gibney’s book, A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, the author pins all of the problems of today’s America on my generation. I confess I haven’t actually read the book and after this segment, I wouldn’t waste my time. This crowd took “OK Boomer” to a new and repugnant level. That evening, I remember taking a minute to process followed by a deep breath. Then, to no one in particular, I muttered the question, “What the hell?”
I have to admit that the entitled attitudes of the assembled whiners got under my skin, so much so that I couldn’t resist speaking on behalf of my generation and in the interest of civility and fairness. I waited until I cooled off.
A week or so later, my head is clearer but time has done little to quell my anger. Being scorned by this population, the age group that much of my generation birthed and raised, alarms and amuses me. I will own some of the contributing factors of this crowd’s angst. They were the first wave of the “everyone gets a prize” horde. I knew then the approach would blow up in our faces but we wanted everyone to be happy and not feel slighted. When we took these children to the store, they inevitably walked out with a toy, even though we only went for a loaf of bread. Disney World, summers on the beach, a steady stream of bikes, skateboards, video games. Cars, education, and big weddings. I guess it wasn’t enough. It’s the proverbial bite to the hand that fed them.
I wonder how many of these kids, the Boomer-attacking PBS NewsHour Zoomers, ever heard about the recession in the mid-seventies at the time we came of age. Inflation was out of control. Twenty years before, our parents enjoyed the post-World War Two boom. They were able to go to college and buy houses with the G.I. Bill. I never remember complaining about the benefits they reaped despite our own challenges. Instead, we had bigger fish to fry. Our peers were going off to war and coming home in coffins. We worried about ending a horrible war, not going to bachelor parties in Jamaica or hen parties in New Orleans.
After graduating from Boston College in 1980, I worked as a clerk at the Boston Public Schools Central Office. I earned $140 a week. Jobs were scarce at the time and I was grateful. My husband, another BC grad, took a job at a local supermarket. His salary, three times what I was earning weekly, supported us. Gas prices were high. We used coupons to survive. Then we had babies, forcing us to tighten our belts even more. Lean times for sure–yet I never blamed my parents or their generation for my struggles.
I bristle at being lumped into the group of alleged sociopathic money grubbers. I have given my kids a leg up. They had cars at a young age. They went to private colleges. Somehow, my own children do not hold me responsible for any economic setbacks they may have incurred. They wouldn’t dare, knowing the argument didn’t have a chance. They have a healthy respect for common sense and for their generous parents.
I can hear the lashback–oh, yeah, you walked six miles to school barefoot in knee deep snow, wah, wah, wah. No, actually, I rode a school bus. My parents didn’t drop me at the door of the school, or drop off my lunch when I forgot it, or breathlessly rush the project forgotten in the backseat of the car to the door of the school so I didn’t get an ‘F.’ I was on my own. And due to that sort of ‘callous parenting,’ I learned to figure things out for myself. Maybe that’s where it all went wrong. Maybe this generation just can’t solve problems. Again, I will shoulder the blame for my kind– the selfish, awful, wealthy, greedy Boomers. But I won’t apologize.
This latest groundswell of emotion designed to scapegoat the older generation surprised me–momentarily. Millennials blame Boomers for not being able to buy a house or a luxury car. The entitlement is all our faults, Boomers. We fought their battles. We questioned their teachers and any well-deserved discipline. We disputed a bad grade. We made these children believe they were special. They haven’t figured it out yet–they’re not.
One last point–I wanted to remind those of you who take issue with the wealth my generation has amassed–one day, it will be left to you. In the meantime, I advise you to be careful about whom you piss off. I hear it’s very simple to bequeath an estate to a favorite cause.
For those of you who don’t get my drift, I suggest watching the movie, Mommie Dearest. Christina Crawford learned the hard way, too.